The Corner

Three Cheers for Fracking: U.S. Carbon Emissions Way Down in 2012

Via Nick Gillespie at Reason I read that John Hanger, a Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania where he has been the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, brings climate-change worriers a piece of good news: The U.S. carbon-tax emissions are down in 2012, and they are now at lower levels than in 2007. Hanger writes:

US energy related carbon emissions in 2012 will fall below 5,300 million tons or down about 12%, compared to the peak emissions of 6,023 million tons in 2007.  Through this September, carbon emissions have been down every month in 2012, when compared to each of the first 9 months of 2011 and 2010. No other country matches that record.

US GDP has grown every quarter since July 1, 2009, and today our economy is bigger than it was in 2007, the peak carbon emission year.  Yet, even with an economy in 2012 that is bigger than in 2007, our carbon emissions will be 12% lower than they were in 2007.

The main cause behind this success is the recent U.S. shale-gas boom:

But central and unique to the US success is massive shale gas production and the resulting low gas prices causing a substantial shift to electricity generated from lower carbon gas and away from coal and oil. Many other countries like China are investing heavily in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and such investments are essential. Notwithstanding impressive investments in clean energy, China and other nations have rising coal use and carbon emissions.  Around the world, renewables and energy efficiency help but have not been enough by themselves to even stabilize carbon emissions, let alone reduce them.

Only the USA has had a shale gas boom and only the USA has cut substantially its carbon emissions since 2006.  When combined with rising amounts of renewable energy and energy efficiency, the shale gas boom substantially decreased US carbon emissions.  Moreover, US electricity prices in 2012 have barely increased and natural gas prices have plummeted.

As Gillespie rightfully notes, “The shale gas boom is a product of fracking, a technology which has not only been around for decades but has apparently been found to be safe in a controversial and not-officially-released analysis prepared for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has been sitting on the report while deciding whether to allow expansive fracking in the Empire State.”


In this 2011 interview, Reason’s science correspondent Ronald Bailey explains why fracking is safe and has been such a success. Don’t miss the part where he reveals how much environmentalists used to love it because they realized that it would lead to cheaper energy consumption [and hence, a higher demand.]

However, this success shouldn’t distract us from from the natural-gas industry’s recent attempts to squeeze out large and unjustified subsidies from Washington through a crony bill called “New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act” (NATGAS Act). The act would provide subsidies for the manufacture and purchase of cars that run on natural gas, the conversion of commercial trucks from diesel to natural gas, the creation of natural-gas filling stations, and tax preferences to favor the use of natural gas over other energy sources. This is yet another example of the perverse incentives created by government’s ability to grant privileges to special interests who are more than happy to ask for them and collect the benefits at the expense of taxpayers and consumers.

Much more on this natural-gas cronyism here.


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